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Cavendish leads chorus of anger at Tour chaos

British rider Mark Cavendish was among the most outspoken in his criticism as members of the Tour de France peloton turned their anger towards race organisers after Saturday's opening stage was marred by a series of crashes.

Cavendish leads chorus of anger at Tour chaos
Mark Cavendish at the head of the pack at the 2013 Tour de France. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

The 213-kilometre ride from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia, the first stage ever to be held on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, was won in a sprint finish by Germany's Marcel Kittel of the Argos-Shimano team.

But his victory became something of a footnote at the end of a chaotic final 20 kilometres as the peloton flew along the narrow roads leading in to Bastia.

The confusion was caused when the bus of the Orica-Green Edge team became stuck under the gantry at the finish line, forcing organisers to propose moving the line forward three kilometres before it was eventually moved into a safe position.

As the peloton approached the finish, they began to up the pace in preparation for the new conclusion to the stage, only to be caught out by the decision to revert to the original plan.

A whole host of riders, including Spain's two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador, last year's green jersey winner Peter Sagan of Slovakia, and former world time trial champion Tony Martin went down in a mass crash six kilometres from the line, with the latter coming off by far the worst.

The German fainted and was later put on a stretcher and taken to hospital in Bastia, fears that he had fractured his shoulder later proving unfounded, leaving his Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammate Mark Cavendish furious.

"What caused the problems was changing the finish," he told reporters. "We heard on the radio with literally five kilometres to go that the sprint was in two kilometres, and then one kilometre later they were like 'No, it's at the original finish.' It's just carnage."

Cavendish had good reason to be unhappy, with the confusion putting paid to his chances of winning the stage and getting his hands on the overall leader's yellow jersey for the first time in his career.

Contador insisted that he would be ok, while Team Sky duo Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard were declared fit to continue after undergoing tests following their falls, with the British team just happy to see their race favourite Chris Froome come home unscathed.

"Obviously, this was a really unfortunate situation," explained Matt White, the sporting director of the Orica-GreenEdge team at the centre of the controversy.

"The bus was led under the finish gantry, and we took it for granted that there was enough clearance."

"The frantic efforts to clear the bus proved successful, and we had a few minutes notice that the finish line had been moved to its original place."

The team were later fined 2,000 Swiss Francs (US$2,116) by the organisers, who blamed them for their late arrival at the finish and insisted they had made the right decisions.

Despite that, there was widespread criticism from elsewhere, including from Marc Madiot, the manager of French outfit FDJ, who launched a stinging attack on the organisers.

"We can't keep changing the route," he told French television. "Everyone can understand why you might have to change the finish line if there is a problem. There is nothing wrong with that, but here the organisers have not done their job properly."

Kittel was one of the lucky ones who avoided the crash and came through to pip Norway's Alexander Kristoff in a sprint for the line, although all riders were later awarded the same time.

"I didn't know that there was a bus on the finish line," Kittel said. "I'm really happy that they managed to tow the bus away and that we could finish on the finish line."

Attention now turns to Sunday's second stage, when more drama could be in the offing as the peloton set off into Corsica's rugged interior for a 156-kilometre ride from Bastia to Ajaccio.

With a series of tricky climbs in the offing, Kittel's yellow jersey is likely to be up for grabs.

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SPORT

Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

MAP: Details of 2022 Tour de France (and Denmark) revealed

Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.

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